Renewable Energy Salesmen?
I used to think that the climate change deniers paid for by big fossil firms and anti-renewable NIMBYs were the worst threats to progress in the fight to cut emissions of GHGs and slow Climate Change but I have recently come across possibly a more sinister and depressing opponent – the Renewable Energy snake oil salesman! These people, either through genuine but misguided enthusiasm or through a malicious wish to fool people into investing in schemes that are about as likely to bear fruit as chocolate teapot manufacture, come up with a way off piste suggestion for a grandiose scheme to solve all of our energy and climate change worries. Now don’t get me wrong I am all in favour of “out of the box” or “blues sky” thinking, but they go straight from some vaguely worked out concept diagram to claims that all further investment in wind or PV or any other low carbon technology are now redundant and pointless. They are one step further into lunacy than the magic bullet salesmen who think that one of the current technologies, be it wind or PV or nuclear, is a one size fits all answer to all our problems.
Why are they so bad? Well at some point they are going to try to persuade people who are concerned about the problems of Climate Change and Energy Security to invest money in these schemes, money that could be invested in home insulation, roof top PV or community wind or hydro projects for example. At least the NIMBYs and climate change deniers are only trying to persuade people to ignore the science and the need for action. The snake oil salesmen nobble the people who have been persuaded to care. They cannot do what is sensible which is to propose an idea for development and try to get universities or industry to make small scale investments to produce trial prototypes or even just to put their ideas out for peer review because they know full well that they will be rejected as deeply flawed or just physically or economically impossible. Instead they launch some small development company and produce a flash looking sales video on U-tube purporting to be a “lecture” on the merits of their scheme and then try to get money out of small investors or crowdfunding. These people are only one step removed from the guy who sold empty plastic boxes with car radio aerials glued to the outside as bomb detectors.
The other really bad thing that they do is to give ammunition to those who oppose wind turbines or PV farms because they suggest that we don’t need to deploy the current crop of well-developed technologies because there is some magic wand solution just around the corner if only the mainstream scientific and industrial cartel will stop suppressing these wonderful inventions. When challenged the snake oil salesman will readily claim to be the victim of conspiracies and prejudice – they can be quite paranoid.
New technologies will come along and in 50 to 100 years we will almost certainly be deploying a markedly different mix of low carbon technologies than we are today but for now we need to deploy as much as possible of the good range of well-developed kit as we possibly can. Universities and big business can pursue the blue sky stuff and take the financial risk. If you have a few hundred or even a few thousand to invest put it into something established and don’t be taken in by the snake oil salesmen!